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How do you feel when the author replies?
As we’re all ushered into this age of social media, each and every one of us is looking for ways to form stronger relationships with our audience, especially with current and potential customers.
There are many ways to discuss how to cultivate and build relationships. I want to focus on blog comments—an often poorly understood and very underutilized tactic by individuals and businesses.
Why Blog Comments?
Over the last 3 years since I started blogging for my two businesses (one company does swimming pools and the other is a sales/marketing company), I’ve personally replied to over 8000 comments on my two blogs.
I don’t give you this number with any intent to brag, but rather to set the stage for a topic that is near and dear to me, and one that I see businesses and bloggers falling short on everywhere, simply because they’re missing a few of these important habits.
This article isn’t about “How to get more blog comments,” but rather how to cultivate better relationships through comments. Notwithstanding, the two do overlap, as you’ll see in the following list.
Finally, you’re going to find that some of the components of this list are nothing more than common sense. But as so many know, common sense, especially in this new culture of social media, can at times be rather uncommon, and therefore needs to be mentioned.
Here’s how to cultivate relationships with blog comments.
#1: Write in a Personal Voice
You can probably tell from just the first few paragraphs of this post that I like to write in a personal tone. And if you’re looking to truly cultivate relationships with the stuff you write, a personal feel will make a HUGE difference.
When done properly, writing in a personal tone and style will immediately help readers feel more comfortable with an author/company and this comfort level naturally lends itself to readers considering leaving their thoughts in the comments section or via email in a direct reply.
So whether you’re writing about swimming pools, insurance, equipment, services, etc.—strive for a personal voice.
#2: Invite Reader Response by Asking Questions
Studies have shown that less than 1% of readers will leave comments on a blog, but I can assure you this number would be better if writers would simply guide the reader in terms of questions at the end of posts.
No matter what your business is, the final paragraph of your blog article is the perfect spot to ask specific questions regarding the topic you’ve just discussed.
Ask readers their thoughts and whether they agree or disagree. Invite them to share further examples that would help other readers. It’s truly amazing the difference this will make if it becomes a habit with everything you write.
PR 20/20 does a very nice job of asking questions at the end of each post in their blog.
#3: Don’t be a Know-it-All
Have you ever read a blog article where the author seemed so snooty or conceited that you were left with a feeling of disdain? Believe it or not, this happens a lot with bloggers and businesses, simply because they confuse arrogance with confidence and authority, thus turning off their readers.
So although it’s a good idea to be an authority in your industry, be careful not to be too over-the-top in your efforts to establish your voice, as this will greatly hinder anyone’s desire to continue the conversation with you going forward, especially in a blog’s comment section.
#4: Admit You May be Wrong
This is an especially powerful technique for inviting discussion, especially if what you’re writing is an opinion piece. Social media expert Chris Brogan has used this technique successfully.
#5: Utilize an Author Bio and Photo
Did you see the author bio box at the end of this post? Other than the fact that Social Media Examiner authors benefit from this little box from a branding and traffic perspective, it also is a tactical way by which readers can get a personal feel for the article’s author, and therefore be more inclined to leave a comment, share the post, etc.
This feature is especially valuable for multi-author blogs.
#6: Say a Simple “Hello”
If you see a friend (we’ll call her Nancy in this example) on the street or in the grocery store, what’s the first thing you always do? Chances are, you likely start off with something like, “Oh, hey, Nancy!” or “Hi, Nancy.” A simple salutation is something we do in just about every society, and it’s a good practice to use when responding to blog comments as well.
Just a little “hello” goes a long way in building relationships with readers, and believe it or not, it’s a practice not seen with many blogs and businesses.
#7: Use Readers’ Names
If you’ve ever read the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, it’s likely that you remember his thoughts on the power of using names. In fact, in the book he states:
Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Such a simple yet profound statement by Carnegie is one that absolutely applies to building relationships with blog comments.
#8: Show Empathy
One of the greatest human needs we all share is wanting to be understood by others. Often, when someone is leaving a comment on your blog, they’re doing it because they want to share about their problems/solutions, failures/triumphs, etc.
This being said, if someone discusses their struggles in their blog comment, always reply with empathy. Recognize what they’ve just told you. This alone will show them you care, and be a powerful relationship-builder.
#9: Ask Further Questions
As with #8, let’s say someone experiencing a problem discusses it in a comment. Other than simply responding with a potential answer, you may want to consider asking more questions to better identify what is happening with the individual so that the solution you come up with is the best one.
Also, by asking these questions, the individual (and other readers) will see how much you care and want to assist in solving the problems of another.
#10: Invite Other Readers to Share Their Solutions
It’s one thing for you and those in your company to answer all of the questions and needs of those who comment on your blog, but it’s another to invite others in your community to step up and give value to readers.
When you have a community of readers who help each other find the answers they’re looking for, this not only takes the pressure off of you to be the “end-all,” but it will also develop a sense of team and community.
Remember this concept of help from the community is not typically an “assumed” thing, which means you need to make it known to readers they’re always invited to leave replies to other folks when they feel they can add value to the discussion.
#11: Respond with Personal Emails
With most blogging platforms, a person who leaves a comment must leave their email in order to do so, which is why it’s a great idea at times to personally reply to readers not just in the comment section, but via direct email as well.
I’ve sent personal emails to hundreds of readers of my blog over the last few years, and almost always they’re shocked I took the time to do so. As you might imagine, this is a powerful relationship-building tool.
#12: Be Specific with Your Praise
If a blog reader leaves a thoughtful comment on your blog with excellent points, take the time to point out what about the comment impressed you, plus your additional thoughts. This will show the person that you truly read and appreciated the comment, and in many ways will feel like a “reward” of sorts for their efforts.
#13: Recognize Returning Commenters
Like the theme from the famous TV show Cheers, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Now granted, that statement was referring to a bar, but the same feeling can be created within a blog’s community and in many ways starts with your ability to recognize readers “as they come through the door”.
So if you see someone returning to your blog, make sure they realize you notice their return, and the fact that you appreciate the visit.
#14: Use a Plugin/Platform that Ensures all Replies are Read
Because we’re all getting a little tired of our in-boxes being so full these days, there’s a good chance that just because someone leaves a comment on your blog that they’re not going to subscribe to all comments on that post, for fear of “inbox inundation.” This is why it’s critical that along with giving readers the option to subscribe to all comments in the post, you add a plugin that ensures they’ll get your reply emailed to them directly.
For all of you using WordPress and their commenting platform, easily the best plugin for this in my opinion is ReplyMe, as it automatically emails any replies to a commenter directly. This is not only a valuable asset in stimulating discussion, it also shows all commenters that you took the time to reply to their remarks.
There are other blog commenting platforms that help with your ability to communicate and converse with your readers—with Disqus (used here at Social Media Examiner) and Livefyre (used at Spin Sucks) being two of the most popular.
#15: Thank Readers for Their Support
Out of the 8000+ replies I’ve made to individuals, I’d venture to say I’ve included some type of thank-you in at least 7000 of them. The reason for this is simple—you want commenters to feel appreciated. Although this does add a little bit of time to each reply, it’s well worth it.
#16: Sign Your Name
This little technique is surprisingly practiced by few bloggers and businesses, but it certainly makes a difference. Just as you would in a letter or an email, it’s a great idea to sign your name to every reply you make to a commenter on your blog. Not only will this allow them to know who is talking, it will also have more of a personal feel and touch as well.
#17: Refer to Comments in Future Posts
As most bloggers know, a healthy comment section can be a breeding ground for future blog post subjects, especially when readers are expressing their problems, issues, questions, success stories, etc.
When great thoughts and questions are left in the comments section, not only should you turn these into subjects for future posts, but also mention and give credit to the reader/commenter who inspired the article.
Done the right way, this is a powerful method to show your community you value their input and are looking out for their needs.
#18: Don’t be a Jerk if Someone Disagrees with You
I recently was commenting on another blog and after I disagreed with what the author of the post had said, the person’s response to my comment was, “You’re just wrong.” Yep, that was the response. And as you might imagine, I didn’t leave that blog post with a stronger appreciation for that particular blog and its author.
Always treat those who disagree with you or your blog with respect. Assuming they do it with class, any debate can be very healthy for the blog, the brand and the community. If the person goes over the top and says something blatantly false or offensive, keep in mind at that point it’s absolutely fine to delete the comment, as there is no rule that states all comments MUST be allowed to stay in the comment section.
Although I probably should have made this the first item on the list, I wanted to finish off with it because everything we’ve talked about in this article starts and stops with a blogger’s/company’s willingness to take the time to respond to commenters.
Now granted, sometimes this may not be possible due to time and resource constraints (especially in the rare occasion that you get dozens, even hundreds, of comments per post), but if your desire is to cultivate relationships through your blog, a reply to thoughtful commenters and readers is an extremely important element.
Now It’s Your Turn
Even though I’ve come up with 19 ways to cultivate relationships through blog comments in this post, I know there are many more out there that you are likely using as well. So please don’t hesitate to add your suggestions to the list in the comments section below.
What do you think? Are there any items in the list that you don’t agree with, or have a unique experience with? Tell us about it. We’d love to hear more from you! Leave your questions and comments in the box below.
Is it working for you?
If you said “no,” I wouldn’t be surprised.
But it doesn’t need to be that way.
Keep reading to discover why many blogs fail and what you can do to boost your traffic and brand.
What’s Wrong With Blogs?
This platform, if done properly, can generate tremendous traffic, leads and sales for your business that you otherwise would not have had.
Unfortunately though, most businesses do not blog well. Why? Because they refuse to think like a consumer.
They refuse to tell consumers the answers to the questions they most want answered. And it is because of this approach we so often hear the phrase, “Yeah, our company tried blogging, but it didn’t work for us.”
I own a swimming pool company, and when the economy crashed in 2008, it was our blog that really saved our business.
By being relentless in our efforts to walk, talk and think like consumers—we were able to garner the love of search engines like Google and thereby get huge search traffic—but we were also able to rise to the top of the entire fiberglass pool industry.
Today, as I share these blogging success principles with companies around the country, I find there are basically two ways that people receive this unique approach to blogging:
“Sure this will work for our industry!”
“Oh no, this doesn’t apply to us at all!”
What’s funny is that folks in the same field often make these statements, yet the only difference is the desire and willingness to experiment with something new.
I say this because I don’t want you to automatically disqualify yourself and your business from what you’re about to read.
Whether you’re a B2B, B2C, product, service, local, international, big or small business—there are sound blogging practices here that could truly help your company.
But enough on that. Let’s talk about how you can take your blog to the next level.
5 Blogging Tips That Work!
#1: Leverage the power of “versus”
As consumers, we love to compare. In fact, we compare companies, products and “stuff” like crazy just to make sure we know we are making a sound buying decision and choosing the best product or service to fit our needs.
For example, because my company sells fiberglass pools, we are constantly explaining to our customers the differences among fiberglass, concrete and vinyl liner in-ground pools. For years, we kept getting these comparison questions on the phone or face to face from customers, so we knew it only made sense to blog about these subjects when we started this process of content marketing in 2009. In fact, the first comparison/versus article we ever wrote was entitled, “Fiberglass Pools vs. Vinyl Liner Pools vs. Concrete Pools: An Honest Comparison.”
After this article was written, I was able to see just how powerful the post was, as it ranked #1 on Google for many important keyword phrases, including:
- Fiberglass vs. vinyl liner pools
- Fiberglass vs. concrete pools
- Concrete pools vs. vinyl liner pools
- And many others
When I saw how quickly this article had captured so many long-tail keyword phrases (phrases of three or more words that have less search competition) in Google search engine rankings, I knew it would only make sense to continue with these comparison-based articles on the blog.
As you can see from the image below, the results thus far have been profound. In fact, just try searching any of the “versus” keyword phrases you see above and you’ll be able to verify how my pool company is on the first page of Google almost every time, usually with the ranking of #1.
Keep in mind though these types of “versus” comparison-based articles aren’t just for getting the attention of Google and the search engines. In the article that compared fiberglass, vinyl and concrete swimming pools, the comparisons were truly unbiased and honest. I didn’t make fiberglass out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I talked about its pros and cons compared to the other types of pools in a very open manner.
And it was because of this (and all of the other comparison articles I wrote) that the blog soon became “the consumer voice” of the in-ground pool industry. People knew they could go there for honest and accurate information, and as a natural byproduct, our customers in Virginia and Maryland felt like they were dealing with the thought leaders of the entire industry.
So look for ways to compare the products and services you sell versus the products and services of others in your field. Give factual information about each. The opportunities here are almost endless and the amount of content ideas that can come from this one subject could very well give you dozens or even hundreds of blog post possibilities.
#2: People want the best, now give it to them
Think about all of the times you’ve asked the question,
“What is the best way to…?” or
“What is the best type of…?”
When it comes to researching and making a buying decision, we love to know the “best.”
There is also a very good chance the prospects and customers in your industry are online searching these types of phrases, which is why you should look for opportunities to utilize the word “best” in your content.
For example, as someone who writes about business blogging all the time, I decided to write an article on my marketing blog entitled “50 Qualities of the Best Business Blogs in the World.” Within two days of writing that post, it was ranked on the first page of Google for the phrase “Best Business Blogs,” which has generated significant traffic to the site since it was published. Furthermore, it’s these types of articles that will build your reputation as an expert in your field.
#3: Focus on problems
Let’s pretend for a second you’re going to buy a pool and you decide to meet with a fiberglass pool builder and a concrete pool builder. Assuming you meet with the concrete pool builder and you tell him that you’re also considering fiberglass, what do you think he would say about the merits of fiberglass?
If you guessed he would likely start telling you about all the “problems” and “issues” of fiberglass pools, you’re right.
In most cases, when consumers are left to debate the merits of the two pools (or anything else, for that matter), where do you think they’re going to go to find out the truth and get an “expert” opinion?
The answer, of course, is the Internet. And in this case, they’ll likely go to Google (or any other search engine) and type in something like, “fiberglass pool problems” or “What are the problems with a fiberglass pool?”
Knowing that people were constantly typing this phrase into the search engines, instead of being an ostrich and burying our heads in the sand, we decided to write an article on the entitled ”Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions.”
Immediately, the article shot up to #1 on Google for the phrase “fiberglass pool problems.” But not only that, because consumers saw how open and honest our company was about the product we sold, the article also generated many, many leads, as shown in the image below, and has been read over 100,000 times in the last two years.
#4: Reveal pricing
A few weeks back, I wrote an article on 5 reasons your content marketing must address price, in which I discussed the merits of addressing the subject of pricing on company websites. So as to not repeat that whole post, the premise behind being more open about this subject comes down to these factors:
- Pricing questions are the first ones consumers tend to ask, whether it’s to Google or an actual person. So if pricing is that important to a potential customer, then we need to figure out ways to address the subject in our content or risk the chance of our web visitors looking elsewhere for the information they seek.
- Because the pricing/cost subject is so critical and a popular search term in every industry, if you address this subject you’ve now put yourself in the position to possibly rank for those keywords in search and experience the huge numbers of visitors that come with it.
- Be more open about pricing to set yourself apart from your competitors and garner respect from consumers who appreciate your willingness to address their questions.
Note: Just as we discussed in the previous article, addressing the pricing/cost subject doesn’t mean you necessarily give specifics. It may just include ranges or an explanation of the factors that dictate what a customer ultimately spends on your product or service.
With respect to your blog and business, a good idea when it comes to price is to write a cost-related article for every product or service that you sell. For some businesses, this means dozens if not hundreds of content opportunities, which will in turn continue to aggregate more search visitors and traffic to your site for months and years to come.
#5: Break news
If you truly want to be known as the voice of your industry, the subject of real-time breaking news can have an incredible impact on your company’s brand and authority.
Popular speaker and author David Meerman Scott has put a new name to this action: “Newsjacking.” He further says:
Whenever there is a hot story in the news, there is an opportunity to create and publish original content that the media will find and will get you coverage.
Newsjacking can be by writing a blog post, doing a YouTube video, creating an infographic, or even publishing a book on Kindle.
I’ve seen cases of “newsjacking” in all industries, but I’ll just mention one of my own here. About two years ago, a major fiberglass pool manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The day it happened, a few people who were familiar with my blog emailed me the news, at which point I immediately ran a story on the event. Not only did that article bring a record amount of traffic and attention to my blog that day, but it also still ranks for major keywords as well, which means continued traffic and leads to my website.
So if you have a blog, keep your ear to the ground and listen for opportunities to present breaking news to the public. By doing this, peers and consumers alike will see you as a leader in your field, which will ultimately increase your chances of getting more business.
Now it’s your turn…
So there you have it, folks—5 unique blogging tips that will boost your business and brand.
What do you think? I’d love to know if you’ve tried any of the above suggestions. If so, what were the results of your efforts? Which ones do you feel like you can improve on the most? Finally, what are some other blogging subjects you would add to the list? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.